A better team through chemistry
The sheet music for ev- ery great song in history is available for purchase. The notes can be played by any number of proficient artists.
But that doesn’t guarantee it’ll sound the same. That doesn’t mean it’ll be
Masterpieces come from great composition and then great chemistry in the execution. The performers don’t even necessarily have to like each other; they just have to tune in to the same vibrations and sensory intellect to reach the critical harmony.
So it will be with the Celtics this season.
The artists are aligned — some of the best in the world, certainly more virtuosos than most other teams in the NBA. The coach will deliver the notes to be played, filling the choruses and setting up the solos.
All the required elements are here — people who can shoot and pass and defend and rebound. But can these people be a true band? Can they improvise when an opponent invades their space and rips their orchestral pages? Can they get out of each other’s way to create the smooth sounds, or will they all try too often to lead?
For me, the most interesting aspect to this Celtic season is that, barring anything catastrophic, it will almost entirely be about chemistry. It will be about how well they can, when necessary, suppress their own dominant instincts and play rhythm guitar.
If the Celtics find that groove, there can be nothing that should stop them from getting to the NBA Finals and doing who knows what from there. If they do not, this could be a colossal cleanup on aisle 5.
All along the way, in either case, it will be intriguing. Were Sigmund Freud
still alive, the Herald would do well to bounce me from this beat and have him cover the club.
There are no secrets here, least of all to the Celtics themselves. They are well aware their season will be decided by how closely they can grow as basketball brethren.
“It’s a lot more than talent,” said Marcus Morris. “Talent helps, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Brad Stevens has been working on new tunes for the setlist, trying, as well, to find the right arrangements. But he knows there is a limit to what a coach can do.
“It’s about chemistry and how you compete together,” he said. “It’s finding each other’s strengths and soaring with them, figuring them out, covering for one another on defense, making sure that you’re cohesive on both sides.
“I think chemistry’s one of our biggest determining factors all year long. And that’s any year. I mean,
last year, the year before, five years ago, you’re trying to be the best version of yourself with who you’ve got.
“This team has a bunch of guys with a lot of strengths, and some days will be their days individually, some days won’t. But collectively we’ve got to be all good together.”
Al Horford smiled at the thought that hoop relationships will count for so much, now that the talent is in place.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” said the veteran. “It’s early and it’s good. Everybody’s saying the right things and trying to do the right things, but we’ll see.
“I really believe that we understand what we’re trying to accomplish, and we’re going to just keep building this, because it’s different. We have so many guys that can do so many things, and I think we all understand that we’re playing for something bigger than individual.”
Marcus Smart is certainly on board with that.
“It’s all about sacrifice,” he said. “That’s hard for some teams, but everybody here wants to win a banner. And if that means we’ve got to give up playing time, we’re for it. Egos off to the side. You check your ego at the door. We’re a family here, and that’s how we come out on the floor every day.
“We’ve got a couple of key guys back in Gordon (Hayward) and Kyrie (Irving), and that’s definitely a part of any new season, trying to get that chemistry between guys, trying to get the chemistry between the bigs and the guards and things like that. Everything has to mesh together, and Brad does an outstanding job of that. He demands perfection and he allows you to be you while you’re trying to be perfect. When you have a coach like that, it’s easy for your chemistry to come along, because he doesn’t single any one guy out. It’s the team, and that’s huge.”
Hayward believes the Celts can’t just think their cohesion into existence; it has to get worked out in the lab.
“I think a lot of that is just being on the court at the same time,” he said. “For me, personally, I played a little bit in the preseason last year and had now two training camps and that’s about it.
“I think there’s so many things you learn about each other when you’re just out there playing games. There’s things that happen in the game that never happen in practice, like things that happen on the fly. Learning each other’s strengths, learning each other’s tendencies, how you like to space around the court, who likes to cut more — all those things are things we’re going to have to learn about each other. I think that’ll come with just being on the court more.”
Even for those who are on the court less. Morris has given the reserves the BWA tag (bench with attitude). At its best, it’s a way to celebrate the willingness to be a part of the process — even when you’re not getting introduced with a spotlight before tipoff.
“I think all those guys, whether they’re starting or not, don’t care if they’re called starters or bench players,” said Stevens. “They’d just all rather be called winners.”
And if the Celtics are still singing in June, each of them will get a gold record.